Iran, world powers hold ‘most detailed’ nuclear talks

Iran on Wednesday concluded two days’ of talks on its controversial nuclear programme with six world powers, and indicated its willingness to take backward steps that could help resolve the dispute.

By Deepak Nagpal | Updated: Oct 17, 2013, 00:03 AM IST

Zee Media Bureau/Deepak Nagpal

Geneva: Iran on Wednesday concluded two days’ of talks on its controversial nuclear programme with six world powers, and indicated its willingness to take backward steps that could help resolve the dispute.

While setting November 7-8 as dates for follow-up talks, Tehran suggested it could scale back controversial nuclear activity in return for removing harsh sanctions that have been hurting its oil-dependent economy.

The parties at the talks issued a rare joint statement stating Iran’s three-step proposals were under active consideration by the six world powers.

The moderation of stance by Iran follows taking over of a moderate president, Hassan Rouhani, in August.

While details of Iran`s proposals were still not in public domain, Iran has indicated that it is ready to allow snap inspections of its undeclared nuclear sites – something which UN inspectors consider as key to determining the Middle East nation is not using its civil nuclear programme to build an atomic bomb.

Following the talks in Geneva, Iran`s chief negotiator praised the meetings as "fruitful".

A US official said after the talks that they have never had such “intense, detailed” discussions with Iran before.

"I`ve been doing this now for about two years," the official said on condition of anonymity. "And I have never had such intense, detailed, straightforward, candid conversations with the Iranian delegation before."

"Although there remain many differences in each area, and what sanctions relief might be appropriate, specific and candid discussions took place," the official added.

The joint statement following the talks said Iran "presented an outline of a plan as a proposed basis for negotiation" and added the talks were "substantive and forward looking".

Iran’s Foreign Minister and chief negotiator Mohammad Javad Zarif said his country was looking ahead to a new era in diplomatic ties.

"We sense that members of the (six powers) also have exhibited the necessary political will in order to move the process forward. Now we need to get to the details," he said, adding, "we hope that this is a beginning of a new phase in our relations."

EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton described the meetings as "very important, substantive and forward looking".

Russia was, meanwhile, sceptical, with its chief negotiator saying there was "no reason to break into applause".

“The results are better than what we had (in the previous round) in Almaty, but this does not guarantee further progress. There is no reason to break into applause," Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov was quoted as saying. "Things could have worked out better," he added.

The United States, Russia, China, France, Britain and Germany want the Islamic Republic to stop higher-grade uranium enrichment to allay concerns that it would provide Iran a quick path to bomb-grade nuclear fuel.

Iran says it is refining uranium only to generate more electricity for a rapidly expanding population and to produce isotopes for medicine.